by Robert Berendt
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen” – John Steinbeck. He must have had two rabbits as our family did – and suddenly there were eight – we thought they were both male rabbits.
Sometimes out of “the clear blue sky” an idea will strike us, but only if that idea falls on fertile soil will it sprout. Any idea is a sign of thought, meditation, and concentration as well as observation. If we have learned to think deeply our mind gathers facts, sorts and uses them. Mind discipline is a skill that can be developed. It stands to reason that when we find joy and success in putting our thoughts to a problem and solving it, we will want to do more. Ideas can come from unlikely sources, but not all ideas have value. In this time of constant mind-occupying entertainment, we do not always have our mind open to new thoughts or ideas. We are not always very observant. Ideas sprout in prepared soil.
All of us likely have had the remarkable experience of being faced with a problem that we simply got stuck on. In my case it was calculus. I could not wrap my brain around the subject, though I tried hard. Then all of a sudden when I was not thinking about anything in particular, it felt like a light came on and suddenly I began to understand a bit of calculus. It seems that our brain has the capacity to continue to function in the sense of sorting information and working on it – even when we sleep or are not concentrating on it. Another experience is to find ourselves trying to think of the name of a person or place that we know, but it simply will not come. It seems the harder we try; the more blanks we draw. Then perhaps minutes, hours or even days later, when we are not thinking about anything in particular, the name of the person flashes to mind. That shows us that our brain continues to work – though in a subconscious manner. Ideas sprout from fertile ground.
It seems that our brain has the capacity to continue to function in the sense of sorting information and working on it – even when we sleep or are not concentrating on it. Another experience is to find ourselves trying to think of the name of a person or place that we know, but it simply will not come. It seems the harder we try; the more blanks we draw. Then perhaps minutes, hours or even days later, when we are not thinking about anything in particular, the name of the person flashes to mind. That shows us that our brain continues to work – though in a subconscious manner. Ideas sprout from fertile ground.
One of the people who God loved dearly, but who disappointed Him greatly was King Solomon. He was commissioned by God to build the first temple in Jerusalem and it was one of the wonders of the then world (I Chronicles 22:5,6). Because Solomon came to God in humility and wanting only to be a good king, He was very pleased to have given Solomon a special ability. He would be the wisest king – wiser than any who came before or who would come afterwards (I Kings 3:11-13).
In some instances, when Solomon’s wisdom was tested, his answers were amazing. It was as though they sprouted from nowhere. The first test of his wisdom came shortly after God’s promises. Two harlots came before him in an argument over a child that each claimed to be hers. Both had given birth, but one of the women’s children died. Solomon called for a sword and was apparently about to divide the child in two – when the real mother spoke up to spare the child (I Kings 3:24-27). She was willing to give it up so it would live. His mind seemed to burst with ideas about what was good and right, how to live, how to grow in wisdom and talent. Solomon spoke 3,000 Proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. Ideas came to him quickly and often.
We humans are prone to taking ownership of our ideas – they may become our “babies.” When we do, it seems a defensive wall often grows and we guard each idea strongly. When that happens, we lose the flexibility of improving our ideas and learning to weed out the bad from the good. Healthy advice is found in Proverbs 4:1-6. We are to remain humble and control our pleasures. Jealousy can extend to ideas as well as towards people. It seems in every garden the weeds sprout first and fastest – ideas often have that same ability. Test them carefully and then give the good time to grow.
King Solomon did not pay enough attention to where his success and thoughts were leading him. In time he forgot God’s words and forsook wisdom and God removed it from him. (V.5,6) Solomon began to intermarry with the daughters of surrounding kingdoms and in the end, he allowed them to bring their pagan gods and beliefs into Israel. After only about 25 years of good rule, Solomon was marrying wives from all over until he could count 1,000 of them and he soon began worshipping their gods. (I Kings 11:1-4). Current ideas that sprouted were the weed kind. Solomon’s son
Somehow we are able to believe so strongly in some of our ideas that we cannot let go even when proven wrong. It seems to become a matter of ownership and we identify with our idea. It is ours and defines who and what we are. The account of the Pharaoh of Egypt being confronted by God through Moses is an example of a man who believed he was invincible and although he admitted defeat temporarily, the idea that he was invincible soon took over and pushed him back to confront God (Exodus 5:2, 7:4,9:17,11:5).
Jonah got the foolish idea of running from God and that did not work (Jonah 1:1-3). King Saul thought the idea of saving some prize stock and also the king of the Amalekites would make him look good (I Samuel 15:19-21). Elijah thought that fleeing into the desert was a good idea when he let the fear of Queen Jezebel engulf his thoughts (I Kings 19:1-4). Paul struggled to rise above his peers and thought that persecuting the church would give him a greater position (I Cor.15:9).
Some have very good ideas Young David the shepherd boy who met Goliath rejected the finest armour of the king and chose to face Goliath with his sling (and God’s support) (I Samuel 17:38-40). There have been many examples of people having an idea that they were able to strengthen with evidence which strengthened their belief, but when that collided with the thoughts of the society or church, it became dangerous. Galileo was almost killed for declaring that the earth was not the center of the universe. Christopher Columbus was thought to be mad for suggesting the earth was round and not flat.
Benjamin Franklin added one new idea to another in his many discoveries. He worked in electricity, developed a flexible catheter, bifocals, improved street lamps and found how the common cold was transmitted. The variety of his discoveries show his mind was never idle – he was always looking, investigating and thinking. Alexander Graham Bell was the same. He invented the telephone, hydrofoils, artificial respiration, water distilling and even produced ideas for sheep breeding and more. These men and many more like them have developed ideas for the benefit of mankind and enriched us all. Some people are inventors, some have inquisitive minds and some are content to put the least amount of energy possible into thinking.
There is no doubt that the human mind is the most interesting and amazing of all the physical living things God has created. Have a problem? Sit and think a while. In time you may be an idea man and problem solver.
Robert Berendt is a pastor with United Church of God. He lives in Canada and loves to write using his own personal experiences.